“Does anybody ever get what they want?” Eef Barzelay asks early on in The Ghost of Fashion. But even more importantly: “What do you mean you talk about love?” For the singer-songwriter of New York’s Clem Snide, the questions are essentially the same: If we don’t know what love means, then how can we ever find it? And on his band’s third full-length of countrified indie-pop storytelling, Barzelay is willing to talk about it until he comes up with an answer.
Which could be awhile, considering that he doesn’t necessarily ever expect to find one. Pondering love’s backs and forths with a Vic Chesnutt-like intimacy through 13 barstool songs of varying degrees of irony and honesty, Barzelay ultimately sounds even more confused — perhaps even less curious — than when he began. Tossing off slightly humorous, more-than-slightly depressing lines like “I’m feeling like the ice cube in your glass/melting away,” his droll, deadpan voice never allows him to sound fully convinced that there is any meaning to love.
He’s a trooper in the killing fields of affection, though, and he ain’t about to stop searching. For now, at least. But as he sings over the honky-tonk trot of “Let’s Explode,” he “don’t wanna look forever,” alluding to the fact that sometimes you can’t get what you want — even if it’s the very thing you need. It’s something Barzelay understands all too well by the end of The Ghost of Fashion, so he’s taking what little he can get, and singing about what he can’t.
E-mail Jimmy Draper at firstname.lastname@example.org.